- Realizing solar industry's virtually unlimited potential and sustaining its strong current growth depend on a few specific policy decisions and targeted government incentives, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- "The Future of Solar Energy" argues that the solar industry needs to let go of net energy metering for rooftop solar, recognize the cost advantages of utility-scale arrays, and support the growth of thin film solar modules made from earth-abundant materials.
- The 330-plus page study warns against allowing the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to expire as scheduled at the end of 2016 because it could sharply slow deployment. It also finds state tax credits and property tax exemptions vital to expansion. It proposes bringing state renewables mandates into a national program that could coordinate and extend the financial benefits of interstate renewable energy credits (RECs) trading.
“The main goal of U.S. solar policy should be to build the foundation for a massive scale-up of solar generation over the next few decades,” the MIT study argues.
Commercially available thin-ﬁlm technologies are about 10% of the solar PV market at present but scaling them up will be difficult because they are made from “scarce elements,” the study reports. Federal support for newer thin films made from earth-abundant materials could produce higher-efficiency, lower cost, lighter-weight modules that could overcome current barriers such as high balance of system costs.
To get rooftop solar PV to cost competitiveness, the study recommends (1) establishing national or regional rules for permitting, inspection, and interconnection of solar installations and (2) extending third party ownership to all states.
For utility-scale solar, concentrating solar power’s 25% or more higher cost is unable to compete against solar PV, the study reports.